Dinniman tells residents, 'You have to be tough' in fight against Artesian
By Richard L. Gaw
While the Delaware-based Artesian Water resources has effectively remained mum on its future plans for the controversial well it owns at the corner of Newark and Broad Run roads in Landenberg, State Sen. Andrew Dinniman had a lot to say on the topic during an address to a crowded house of concerned residents who packed the New Garden Township Building on Oct. 13.
In an hour-long conversation to moret han 100 residents, Dinniman said that companies like Artesian are global entities and that small towns like Landenberg are only a "speck on their map," and that it will be important for citizens to "stand up," not only against Artesian, but to the many regulatory agencies that govern the use and distribution of water throughout Pennsylvania.
"What's happening more and more is that these regulatory agencies are assuming that they have power to do everything, and they are actually taking over many of the powers that justifiably belong on the local level, especially when it comes to local zoning laws," Dinniman said.
"Those who want profits do not see the green of trees and open space or agriculture," he said. "They see the green of money, so we who value our property and see the green of our open spaces need to show them that we are tough."
Artesian's presence in Landenberg has been a lightning rod of controversy since it first began the exploration of water sources in the area in 2002. This past spring, against both public and legislative opposition, the Pennsylvania office of the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] granted Artesian permission to conduct a 72-hour aquifer test at the site of the well. At a rate of 200 gallons per minute, Artesian pulled more than 600,000 gallons of water from the ground to determine the potential production value of the well.
The New Garden Board of Supervisors opposed the testing. A Jan. 24, 2014 letter, authored by township solicitor Vincent M. Pompo and sent to John M. Thaeder, Artesian senior vice president, said that Artesian has no record of land subdivision approval, and is in violation of two township ordinance compliance issues.
To date, the results of the aquifer test have not been shared with the public -- a fact that Dinniman confirmed -- but if the well is found to have a sustainable withdrawal, it will be used as a pumping station for Artesian. It will be expected to withdraw 200 gallons of water a minute -- as much as 288,000 gallons a day – and more than 100 million gallons projected over the course of one year. Artesian officials have insisted that the water would be distributed to southern Chester County, and supply area residents.
Dinniman said that Artesian has not yet applied to the DEP for water allocation of well water. On two occasions -- in March and July -- Dinniman's office received assurance from Artesian that the company had not yet applied for the permit, but has been assured that his office would be informed by the DEP and Artesian should the company submit an application for a permit.
Dinniman shared his concerns with the audience, and said that because he grew up on a farm, he knows the anxiety that can happen when water levels go lower. Many local residents are worried that will happen if Artesian begin to draw water from the Broad Run Well.
"Never mind Mother Nature when Mother Artesian has also decided to take water out at 288,000 gallons per day," Dinniman said. "We know the withdrawal of water could affect 50 percent of the homeowners in New Garden, as well as homeowners in London Britain and Franklin townships."
Dinniman told the audience that it has a lot of weapons in its arsenal against Artesian, including being the only county in the state with its own water resource authority, access to geographical survey data to examine flood and drought research, and a connection to the Stroud Water Research Center, which Dinniman called one of the best water research centers in the world.
While Dinniman took up most of the spotlight on Monday, the Save Our Water Committee, a local grass roots coalition, has become the most visible presence spearheading the opposition to Artesian. Supported by a 600-plus e-mail membership and the distribution of more than 200 signs throughout New Garden, London Britain and Franklin townships that declare opposition to Artesian, the committee now lists more than 1,200 residents who have signed a petition opposing Artesian's presence.
“Let me put that into perspective for you,” said committee spokesman Barry Crozier. “In the township at the primary election held this past May, it was reported that there were 2,140 registered voters. Of the registered voters, 554 cast a vote. We have five times more signatures opposed to the actions of Artesian than those who voted in May."
The committee has also formed a well-connected, 15-member board made up of scientists, businesspeople, environmentalists and conservationists, who meet regularly with elected officials; local agriculture, environmental and conservation groups; and experts in water science, geology and stream ecology.
“At each meeting, I continue to be amazed at the passion and industriousness of this group of dedicated people,” Crozier said before introducing Dinniman.
"You have to be tough," Dinniman told the audience before taking questions. "You fight them by putting signs up all over town. You fight them through your supervisors, to use the legal force of the township. You happen to have a solicitor [Pompo] who is an expert on environmental law. You have to let it be known that it's not going to be easy for Artesian to come in here.
"When citizens have one voice and they make it clear, a company may decide, 'Maybe this isn't the right place. Maybe we should try another township,'" he added. "I have seen it happen again and again. [Artesian doesn't] want to take a lot of time. Time is money for them. ... If you slow them down, that's about all it takes."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .